Notes from the 2017 New England Studies Program
By Gail Laird
The Historic New England Organization is the oldest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in our nation. They bring history to life while preserving the past for everyone interested in exploring the authentic New England experience. Historic New England owns and operates thirty-seven historic sites in five states. The region’s rich history is shared through their collections, programs, properties, and family stories that document more than four hundred years of life in New England.
This year as a co-owner of Halliday House and due to my ongoing interest in New England homes, gardens, and furnishings I enrolled and attended their 6 day Study Program for 2017. I was delighted to experience the history of how New England houses were formed and how people used materials to make these houses into homes.
I hope you enjoy seeing and reading the notes from each day of our tour as much as I did being there.
Colonial Redux: The Revival of American Architecture and Art
Gerald W. R. Ward, Senior Consulting Curator and Katharine Lane Weems Senior Curator Emeritus, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Creating a History for New England’s Architecture: The Colonial Revival from the Civil War to the First World War
Kevin D. Murphy, Andrew W. Mellon, Chair in the Humanities and Professor and Chair of the History of Art, Vanderbilt University
Tour of Cogswell’s Grant (c. 1732)
Richard C. Nylander and Nancy Carlisle
Tour Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House (1907)
Richard C. Nylander and Nancy Carlisle
We met at the Otis House for a very early bus departure to Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA, where we were met by Gerald Ward and Katharine Weems. The lecture, “Colonial Redux: The Revival of American Architecture and Art”. This lecture was followed by Kevin Murphy speaking and showing slides of “Creating a History for New England’s Architecture. The Colonial Revival, the Civil War to the First World War”. The morning flew by as the outside clouds were threatening a storm. Fortunately we were housed inside a structure at Coolidge Point: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial built in 1968. This Colonial Revival home was fashioned after those in Williamsburg, VA and was built for a descendent of Thomas Jefferson. We did tour the home after lunch and the sky cleared so that we could leave for the next tour in Essex, MA.
Cogswell’s Grant was built in 1732 with additions through the centuries. The basic building is an early 18th C farmhouse with low heavy beamed ceilings, wide board wooden floors and 6 over 6 windows. The house is loaded with folk art, mostly colorful from textiles to paintings and sculptures. It is a folk art lover’s dream come true. I could imagine being locked in for a weekend by mistake and loving it. Since the rooms are small, we split into 2 groups to be led by Richard Nylander and Nancy Carlisle, one upstairs and one downstairs. After determining our group number, we donned our booties and stepped inside. All I can write is WOW times 100. For me, the excitement is in the imagining of the artists creating the folk art. What drives a person to find a piece of wood and to fashion it into a cane with a dog head for the handle? Even when colors and materials were scarce, how did the people create such wonders? Hopefully my photos will tell a story that intrigues your imagination and incites a love for Folk Art.
Halliday House is filled with many pieces of Folk art similar to what was found in the Cogswell Grant house. We have an Overmantel painting, Grain Painted Blanket Box, Horse Weathervane, Tavern Game Table, Sailing Ship Diorama, Shore Birds, and a Red Coverlet. Maybe that is why I found myself most at home here. All of these would fit right in at the house. The New England Historical’s website says the house was decorated over the 60 years that the Little’s lived there, with an eye for visual delight rather than historical accuracy. Their home is rich in atmosphere and full of strong, even quirky character.
The final home is the Sleeper-McCann House built in 1907 for the decorator-owner. Named Beauport, it rests at the water’s edge in Gloucester, MA. Due to the lifestyle of the owner, there is an abundance of bedrooms, bathrooms, and dining rooms while having a scarcity of sitting or living rooms. To my way of thinking, the home is exceedingly eccentric and eclectic, and certainly worthy of the tour. Once again Richard Nylander and Nancy Carlisle split us into two groups so that we could better see and hear each of them–one upstairs and one downstairs. The views were considered in the total layout of the home and especially in the dining rooms, (of which there are 5). We completed our tour with a champagne reception on the Beauport Terrace. There was a final bus ride back to Boston and some sad goodbyes to new friends.
Exterior of Cogswell’s Grant
Earliest Painting in Home 1642
Desk at Colonial Revival Home, Coolidige Point
Exterior of Sleeper-McCann House
Wall of Amethyst Glass
Thomas Jefferson Portrait
Lion Hooked Rug
Homespun Covered Beds
Windsor Rocker Writing Chair with Drawers
Paint Decorated Blanket Box
Folk Carved Flying Goose
What’s New at Quincy House?
Curators Decorative Arts Tour Nancy Carlisle
Bringing it all Back Home, Conservation and Quincy House
Alex Carlisle, Supervising Conservator, Historic New England
Wild and Colorful: American Victorian Architecture, 1840-1890
Richard Guy Wilson, Chair, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia
Victorian Furniture: Design Run Amok or Inspired Creativity?
Quincy House (c. 1770)
Eustis Estate and the exhibition, Mementos: Jewelry of Life and Love from Historic New England
We had an early bus ride to Quincy, MA, to tour the home, built in 1770, of the first Josiah Quincy. A portrait of Quincy hangs above the fireplace in the main parlor. Two lectures preceded the tour. Nancy Carlisle gave us a good description of life in this home through four Josiah Quincys and ending in the 1880s with Eliza Susan Quincy who was a descendant and chief documentarian of the home and all artifacts. As a result, we got a good glimpse of the 1770 home along with photos and records from the 1850s when the 3 sisters moved into the home and up until Eliza’s death in the 1880s. An interesting difference in the central hall shows the staircase opposite the common placement. Here the stairs face the back door whereas entering the front door shows the back of the staircase with wainscoting about 3′ from the floor and then the wallpaper continues up and over. The Quincy family was very wealthy and used their wealth to the betterment of Boston and the surrounding areas. This was the Quincy summer home and included some 300 acres.
After a bus ride to Milton, MA to the Eustis Estate,1878 we enjoyed a lunch at the Estate and Study Center. The lectures that followed were: American Victorian Architecture, 1840-1890 and Victorian Furniture: Design run amok or inspired creativity?
As we approached the home on foot, we came upon a standing frame. Questions ensued….What is that for? It seems that this property is newly opened and that frame is for those of us who want to be framed in front of the estate either by another with a camera or by taking a “selfie”. Not at all the only relaxed museum aspect of the Eustis Estate. The tour is self guided throughout this huge estate with interactive elements and with nothing “off limits” to touch or to sit upon. What a freeing concept! The dark woods of the interior are an obvious change from the earlier architecture we have observed. Whereas, the exterior elements are varied and roof lines complex.
We did have an “add on” visit to an easement house with an agreement with Historic New England. The current owner lives in the house and was generous to allow our visit after an already full day of tours and lectures. Her home was built in 1891 and had many of the original elements still intact, along with a treasure trove of the architectural and the carvers plans and tools. This home is in Newton, MA
Portrait of Josiah Quincy
Eustis Museum Brochure Photo
Interactive Space in Eustis Museum
Revitalizing the Historic House Museum
Kenneth C. Turino, Manager of Community Engagement and Exhibitions, Historic New England
Federal Furniture in New England
Robert Mussey, independent conservator
Gardner-Pingree House (1804)
Tour of Historic New England’s Library and Archives
Lorna Condon, Senior Curator of Library and Archives, Historic New England
Day four of the six day tour is as exciting as the first. While still in Boston, Ken Turino, manager of community exhibitions gave a breathtaking lecture “Revitalizing the Historic House Museum” which was very well received. Many in our group of 25 are employed and/or connected with museums. Robert Massey, an independent conservator, made the distinctions in his lecture between earlier furniture styles and federal style easy to understand through the use of slides.
We left Boston for lunch at the historic Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, MA. What a treat it was to be seated at small tables and be served delicious New England delicacies. We could just dash across the street from the hotel to our tour of the Gardner-Pingree House, a magnificent example of a federal home of a wealthy family in Salem, MA. built in 1804. This is a grand home as seen from the photo of the exterior. The very colorful kitchen with hanging cooking utensils (like these 18th C utensils in our shop) and tools depicts the cooking center as it was. Children (see high chair) were fed here typically until their manners would allow them to eat in the dining room. Windsor Arm Chairs would have also been a common piece of furniture. Upstairs, the expensive bed coverings graced the four poster beds of the times. Before leaving by the front door, I took this shot of the heavy brass door lock and oversized key
This Studies program seems easier to follow since it has been organized chronologically. It really shows the progression of development of houses and peoples lives.
Back to Boston for a tour of Historic NE’s library and archives and we wrap up a long day of important learning,
Eighteenth-Century American Furniture
Brock Jobe, Professor Emeritus of American Decorative Arts, Winterthur Museum
Tour of Otis House (1796)
Richard C. Nylander, Curator Emeritus, Historic New England
(furniture, ceramics, and textiles)
Brock Jobe, Nancy Carlisle, Senior Curator of Collections and Laura Johnson, Associate Curator, Historic New England
Tour of Collection Storage Facility, Haverhill, Mass.
Lecture and Reception
The Architecture and Landscape of Federal New England
Ritchie Garrison, Director, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, University of Delaware
Today focused mostly on 18th C New England furniture and life with our Winterthur professor, Brock Jobe kicking off the first lecture of the morning. Staying at the Otis House, Richard Nylander lectured next and then led the tour of the Harrison Gray Otis House, (where we have been meeting all week). Downstairs we examined the various vivid colors on walls, wallpapers, and moldings–some with applied classical decorations. The dining room table has wine, fruit, and pastries as if we were invited to sit down and partake. Upstairs picture shows Sally Otis’s lovely four poster bed with elaborate decorations and exquisite textiles. Here we learned that fireplaces upstairs were not lit unless someone was ill or in bed after childbirth. It was fun to get beyond the auditorium to view the various rooms in this 1796 home of Sally and Harry Otis on Cambridge St. in Boston overlooking Beacon Hill.
We took a box lunch on the bus to Haverhill, MA where the Historic New England offices are located along with the Collection Storage Facility where all ages of items are stored in a temperature controlled setting. Thanks to Brock Jobe and Nancy Carlisle, several hours were devoted to workshops covering textiles, ceramics and furniture from the collections, followed by an entire tour of the Storage Facility. While there, we saw examples of silhouettes similar to the ones in our Featured section. We got close to the Schoolgirl Art that was popular in the day and one of the people who made it possible for girls to receive this education. Her portrait hangs next to their art and her name is Clementine Beech, the owner of the school near Boston.
After a bus ride back to the Otis House, our last lecture of the night featured J. Richie Garrison from Winterthur speaking on The Architecture and Landscape of Federal New England.
James L. Garvin, State Architectural Historian (retired), New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources
New England House and Home
Jane C. Nylander, President Emerita, Historic New England
Tour of Moffatt-Ladd House (1763)
Barbara McLean Ward, Ph.D., Director and Curator, Moffatt-Ladd House and Garden and James L. Garvin
Tour of Lady Pepperrell House (1760)
Reception at the home of Jane C. Nylander and Richard C. Nylander
How Colonial New England Became Britain’s Pottery Barn
Cary Carson, Vice President, Research Division (retired), Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Claire Dempsey, Associate Professor of American and New England Studies, Boston University
Boardman House (c. 1687), Saugus, Mass., and Gedney House (1665), Salem, Mass.
Cary Carson and Ben Haavik, Team Leader, Property Care, Historic New England
The Boardman House was erected in 1692 with additions in 1696.
As you can see in the picture, three centuries of walls show in the doorway to the front room. Notice the enormous beams used in construction and the fact that the same beams could be cut away to make room for taller people. The fireplace used for heating and cooking dominates the room.
Next 17th C home tour was the Gedney in Salem, MA. built 1665. The photo at the bottom on the lower right, shows 17th C and later 18th C lathe and plaster boards and the historic progression (right to left) of the manufacture of nails. Since both home tours were designed to show New England Architecture elements the interior had been stripped of plaster walls, etc to show structural elements.
Both lecturers focused on 17th C New England Architecture and methods of building. The main lecturer now retired from Colonial Williamsburg (Vice President of research division), Cary Carson, responded when I asked him how he got into this work, that he started at Winterthur and just couldn’t stop. He guesses he was a born archeologist.